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Water of Life and Death

Neil MacGregor focuses on water, an essential part of religious practice in Christianity, Islam and Judaism, and reports from Varanasi, India, on the role of the Ganges in Hinduism.

Neil MacGregor continues his series on the expression of shared beliefs in communities around the world and across time, and focuses on water, including a visit to the Ganges at Varanasi, India.

In Islam, Christianity and Judaism, water is an essential part of religious practice. But for no faith does water - and one particular kind of water - play such a significant role as for Hindus. To bathe in the river Ganges is not just to prepare to meet the divine, but already to be embraced by it. The river Ganges is the goddess Ganga, and the waters of this river, which govern life and death, have not only determined many aspects of Hinduism, but in considerable measure shaped the identity of the modern state of India.

Producer Paul Kobrak

The series is produced in partnership with the British Museum.
Photograph: (c) The Trustees of the British Museum.

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15 minutes




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